Nigeria is grappling with many challenges, including heightened insecurity, religious intolerance, divisiveness, poor health of the economy, erratic electricity supply, university teachers’ strike, accelerating inflation, naira depreciation, high unemployment, and debt overhang.
Almost at every corner, in the buses, offices and the streets, the discussion on the lips of Nigerians are religious and ethnic differences, the chequered economic state of the nation and the possible redemption of the country from collapse.
It becomes more troubling as countries begin to warn their citizens of travelling to Nigeria. The United States has issued such warning to its citizens, identifying some high-risk zones in the country where terrorism, kidnapping for ransom and other security threats are rampant.
While insecurity is heightened in the North, East and West, with many lives lost to both kidnapping, Boko Haram insurgency and separatist movements, Nigerians lack constant electricity at home and in the offices as huge amounts are spent on petrol and diesel generators. Businesses are frustrated, finding it difficult to operate amid the heavy load of multiple taxation by government agencies.
Nigeria is also carrying a heavy debt burden. Its total public debt stock stood at N39. 56 trillion as at December 2021. The country’s increasing debt stock under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is a concern, particularly considering that the government now spends most of its income on debt servicing.
“For instance, the Federal Government generated N3.93 trillion within the first eight months of 2021, but used N2.89 trillion to service debt same period, according to official data. Also, the new figures indicate that the country, which has faced two recessions in four years, has more than doubled its debt stock since 2016,” BusinessDay said in a recent report.
What this simply means is that Nigeria may not be embarking on new projects as the little revenue left after debt service will be used for salaries. A further option is more borrowing.
Discussions about Nigeria’s situation have become rife as elections beckon next year to elect who Nigerians think will transform and redeem the country. Many Nigerians who voted out of sentiment in the previous elections are biting their fingers and ready to correct such mistakes in the interest of the nation, even when they are offered money by money-bag politicians to sway their decisions. But it is doubtful how many Nigerians will stay true to this as hunger bites on the land.
Last month, Aminu Tambuwal, governor of Sokoto State, in whose state hoodlums took laws into their hands to kill Deborah Samuel over an accusation of blasphemy, agreed that Nigeria is on the brink.
He said: “The issue of insecurity, disunity calls for all of us men and women of goodwill to come together and rescue the country; Nigeria is on the cliff. We have never seen this kind of situation before where our unity is so threatened, where corruption has been taken to the next level. It is no more safe to move freely around the country.
“We saw the accountant-general helping himself to state money as alleged. Nigeria is on the brink and we must do everything to rescue it.”
Tambuwal, in his address to Lagos delegates at a town hall meeting in Ikeja, said the country was in a precarious situation that needed urgent intervention from committed and focused leaders to save it from total collapse.
To many Nigerians, the country has never been as divided along tribal and religious lines as it is today.
As admitted by other stakeholders, though Nigeria has had challenges with ethnicity, it is getting worse by the day and this is pushing it further to the brink.
Read also: Nigeria’s stocks move further south
To the stakeholders, the last few years are wasted without tangible development to show for it as other African nations such as Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda outshine Nigeria in investment attraction.
“This is the darkest side of Nigeria’s crescent moon; it was just too opaque for even the best of prophets to have had a forecast of our arrival at the junction of confusion and demeaning destination. The entity called Nigeria has never before now harboured this multitude of dispossessed, insulted, assaulted, hungry, angry, hopeless, helpless, neglected and worst still, abandoned people who at the pleasure of Buhari’s administration are called Nigerians,” Tope Musowo, a public affairs commentator, said.
Nigerians who are also worried about the poor state of the nation, mirrored in the declaration of Nigeria as poverty capital by the World Poverty Clock in 2018, have called for a restructuring of the country as a solution to put Nigeria on a progressive trajectory. But this thinking is receiving opposition as some regions want the status quo that has kept Nigeria stagnant for years.
Nevertheless, some Nigerians are hoping for the emergence of a ‘messiah’, perhaps through the ballot box in 2023 to open a new chapter for the country. Presently, some Nigerians appear ready to vote for those they think are credible to pilot the country’s affairs, but there are still fears if their votes will count, considering the experiences of the past and endemic corruption in the system.
Kunle Okunade, a political analyst, said: “Obviously, the country is in a state of coma seeking redemption before total collapse. No sector is working as expected. The system is not working for the benefit of the common man except for the few milking the scarce resources of the nation. There is no doubt that we can’t continue this way; there must be a fundamental change to salvage the country.
“Look around, people are managing to survive; the situation is tough, but I think we have an opportunity to make that needed change next year. The decision on the future of the country is left for Nigerians to decide. Nigerians must come out and exercise their franchise in the 2023 general elections by electing the right leaders to take the country to the next level.
“It is obvious that the problem of Nigeria is purely leaders; there is no reason why we should be here, considering our resources, but I think just sitting and looking would not solve anything. We need to get involved if we want to salvage things.”
Observers say what Nigeria needs are concrete steps to salvage the nation from the brink, consciously reunite and integrate the country and take public relations actions to build the image of the county at home and abroad for tourism and investment. As the 2023 elections get closer, tested politicians with economic and administrative acumen capable of uniting Nigeria should be elected, lest Nigeria crumble.